Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that U.S. missile defense
interceptors could be located in Turkey, or even Iraq or on sea platforms,
offering yet another alternative to an American plan for a missile shield in
Russian President Vladimir Putin
listens to a question during a press conference at the end of the G8
Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, Friday, June 8, 2007. [AP]
"They could be placed in the south, in U.S. NATO allies such as Turkey, or
even Iraq," Putin said at a news conference after the close of the Group of
Eight summit. "They could also be placed on sea platforms."
Putin's proposal on missile defense interceptors followed his surprise
suggestion Thursday to President Bush to share use of the huge Soviet-era radar
at Gabala in northeast Azerbaijan, now leased by Russia.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Putin's offer of the radar in
Azerbaijan caught the Bush administration off guard, but that it was worth
looking into even while missile defense negotiations with Poland and the Czech
"One does not choose sites for missile defense out of the blue," she told The
Associated Press. "It's geometry and geography as to how you intercept a
The latest proposals came after Putin spent weeks bitterly denouncing a U.S.
proposal to build the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic,
to defend against a future missile threat from Iran.
As he spoke Friday, a man threw a handful of leaflets into the air,
momentarily disrupting the briefing.
"Outstanding. Well done," Putin said to him in Russian. After asking the man
for one of the leaflets, which accused the president of ruling like a czar, he
added in German: "Now leave us in peace and give us time to answer."
The protester, 20-year-old Konstantin Schuckman, a German-Russian dual
citizen, later accused Putin of trampling on democracy, citing recent crackdowns
on dissent and on opposition marches.
It was not immediately clear how he reached the briefing at the summit site,
which is secured by a seven-mile fence and a heavy police presence. Thousands of
journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations are accredited
to attend the summit.
The United States says the missile defense elements that it wants to place in
Poland and the Czech Republic are aimed at intercepting possible attacks from
Iran and North Korea.
Putin contends that putting the system in Eastern Europe would mean it could
be used against Russia's missiles, thereby undermining the balance of power in
But an Iraqi government spokesman criticized Putin's latest proposal.
"We have nothing to do with the missile shield project. Nobody asked us about
this thing. Nobody has the right to speak about or decide an issue concerning
Iraq except for the Iraqi people," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh
Putin said last week that Russia would aim its missiles at Europe for the
first time since the end of the Cold War if the U.S. plan goes ahead.
With the world's second-largest Shiite Muslim population, secular Azerbaijan
has concerns that Iran's Shiite theocracy could spread and some analysts
suggested that Iran would be angered by U.S. use of the radar facility.
But Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said the proposal "can only
bring more stability into the region because it can lead to more predictable
actions in the region."
NATO's top diplomat, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he thought
Azerbaijan "a bit close to the rogue states we are discussing" but welcomed the
talks between Bush and Putin at the G-8 summit in northern Germany, which
diplomats say marked a thaw in relations after weeks of mounting tension.
In Moscow, Russian lawmakers said the United States has no technical reason
to reject the Kremlin proposal for the U.S. to halt construction of the eastern
European defense system in exchange for joint use of the Russian-leased radar
site in Azerbaijan.
But NATO and Pentagon officials raised doubts about the plan, and Pavel
Felgenhauer, an independent expert on Russia's military forces, said the plan is
unworkable from Washington's viewpoint.
"Militarily this makes no sense whatsoever, and the Pentagon is not
interested at all," Felgenhauer said. Washington's support for building a radar
site in the Czech Republic and placing interceptor missiles in Poland, he said,
"have never wavered, and there is no way this can substitute."
Moscow made the proposal, he said, to give Washington a face-saving way to
abandon its proposed anti-missile system. Washington, he said, hopes to use
negotiations to give the Kremlin a chance to quietly shelve its objections to
the missile shield.